A decade or more ago, a 'new' formguide was launched in Melbourne and I was among those who felt it would struggle to establish itself in a crowded marketplace. I'm happy enough to admit I was wrong.

The Winning Post formguide (569 issues old as I write this towards the end of June) has not only survived, it has carved out a strong position for itself against the likes of Sportsman, Best Bets, Truth, Wizard and the many daily newspaper formguides.

Winning Post obviously pursues an aggressive advertising stance because its pages are packed with advertisements for all sections of the racing industry, from tipsters to breeders to race clubs and horses for sale.

Profits earned from Winning Post ($2.20 per copy at the newsagents) go to help the DOXA Foundation, which provides support services for underprivileged children. It was established by Father Joe Giaccobe.

What does it offer that you can't get in other formguides, or in your daily newspaper? Well, quite a lot, though I'd say it's not a formguide for the punter who demands a great mass of form details.

WP provides lots of articles as well as its formguides. On pages 2 and 3 you'll find previews of the major weekend race meetings, and on page 4 there is usually a full page of letters to the editor. I imagine this is one of the most popular editorial pages. It attracts many Interesting letters.

I often make use of WPs Trackmen Reports. These appear on page 6 and are trackwork gallop comments from Des Spain at Flemington, George Venn at Caulfield, Rod Douglas at Mornington and Brian Watson at Cranbourne. You can pick up some good winners by taking careful note of this foursome.

Take this comment from Des Spain for Moonee Valley on June 26: 'Rainbow Lover is knocking on the door and her turn isn't far off.' The 3yo filly won at very good odds.

WP has a number of columns covering racing in country centres. Once again, careful examination can uncover some 'pearls' of information that can guide you to future winners. The columns cover racing at Bendigo, Gippsland, Adelaide, Ballarat, Western Districts (Victoria), Northeast Victoria, and international racing.

One of the more interesting pages, from a punting point of view, is Trevor Hindmarch's 'This Punting Life'. Every week, he hands out horses to follow and introduces various system ideas, including a special 'system of the week.'

Winning Post's form is presented in an easy-to-follow style, much like the form details you find in a racetrack programme. One page is devoted to the fields, with trainers and jockeys clearly highlighted, along with a pre-race betting market (not always accurate because of the advance preparation on Thursday mornings).

An ABC (alphabetical) index of all runners is included. If you're like me, you find these indexes most important. With so much racing, the average punter needs an index to track down which horses are racing where. I know that our own PPM index is treasured by our readers!

There's a tips panel (three tipsters) for some of the programmes. The tipping staff is headed by an old pal of mine, NZer Tony Kneebone, one of the best tipsters around.

The formguide itself covers up to five runs for each horse. All the general details you need are included. The guide goes as follows:

TAB number, horse, barrier, age, weight, breeding, owners, racing colours, career details (starts, wins, 2nds, 3rds), prizemoney, jumps races separated from flat performances, trainer and his training base.

It then goes into the finer detail of the form, with listings of performances at the distance of the race, at the track, winning distance range (say 1500m to 2200m), firstup record, performances on fast, good, dead, slow, heavy going.

As you'll realise, these little points are, in fact, major points that can help you decide whether a horse is a good chance or not.


The details for each of the horse's last five starts are featured as follows (using as an example the form for Guns Ablaze at Randwick on June 14):

1-11 Rand 14 June 1100 2YO Hcp, Dead, L. Moloney (11) 56.5 (cd 54.5) 5-2, 2nd Ages Ago 55.5, nose, ? len, 1-06.66, 2nd at 800, 2nd 400, last 600m in 37. Is. Betting: 9-4, 5-2. Limit 52.

Here, then, in a nutshell is a description of how the horse performed. We can see that he carried 54.5kg to win at Randwick over 1100m, that he scored narrowly, and that he was a handy 2nd throughout until getting up to win.

Underneath each horse's formlines is a potted comment. It could read like this one, for Desert Sashay, winner of the first race at Randwick on June 26:

'Supported from 20s to 12s before grabbing the minor placing behind Chief Mo Mo at Rosehill 17 days ago. In astute hands and he comes under consideration.'

One aspect of Winning Post I like a lot is that it goes all out to get as many formguides in as possible. You can pick up a copy on Friday morning and find guides for all the major meetings on Friday, Saturday, Sunday ... and Monday!

Now that's an excellent service. A whole weekend to study Monday's form!


Winning Post, then, is a complete formguide, and certainly it has enough information contained in its pages to enable most punters to decide which horses they want to back.

It doesn't offer the sheer breadth and scope of Sportsman, but I doubt it's aiming at the punters who want the sort of information that Sportsman offers. It's much more of a rival for Best Bets.

Both offer the same sort of formlines for each runner. The difference is that Best Bets' information comes in a small, pocket-book-sized format, which appeals to a lot of punters.

Winning Post, because of its tabloid size and its 68 pages, is able to offer a lot of editorial content as well. This is something that Best Bets attempted to provide when it changed ownership a year or more ago, but which it eventually dropped, I guess because of the pressure on space and the costs involved.

It's interesting when discussing the various formguides to speculate about their respective sales figures. In its heyday, Best Bets used to sell 80,000 copies. If it sold a third as much as that now, I'd be surprised, even though it's now a better and more thorough publication.

Sportsman's sales are not publicly revealed, though some 20 years ago there was talk of sales in the 20,000 to 25,000 range. I would speculate that Winning Post might sell around 5000 to 7000 copies, and Wizard around the 3000 mark.

Considering the vast numbers of punters in Australia, these are moderate sales figures. I suppose one of the reasons why people don't bother buying formguides is that they are happy enough with their morning newspaper guides.

There is always going to be room, though, for the specialised formguides; at least I sincerely hope there is. Whether all can survive with the advent of a GST, who knows? It might well be the knockout blow if consumers suddenly stop buying them because of increased price.

In next month's September PPM, I'll be taking a look at the Wizard formguide. It's a guide aimed at serious punters and it's one I've always felt could have been presented in a better format and with a much more modern look about it.

Click here to read Part 4.
Click here to read Part 5.
Click here to read Part 6.
Click here to read Part 1.
Click here to read Part 2.

By Brian Blackwell